45 Summer Songs You Better Have…Or Else

Posted May 28, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

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“Dancing in the Streets”
Martha & the Vandellas
#2 pop, September 1964 (Gordy)

Before Martha goes down the roll call of major cities, she gets our attention by declaring “summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street.” Although it slowly made its ascent up the higher portions of the pop charts before Labor Day weekend in September, the gold-certified Motown single was already a hot sensation on the R&B charts. Martha & the Vandellas had struck gold twice with yet another summer-themed anthem.


“The Tide is High”
#1 pop, November 1980 (Chrysalis)

Blondie’s reggae-toned cover of an obscure Paragons song is loaded with island sizzle and summery vibes, thanks to the ska update and Debbie Harry’s flirty vocals. Although the usage of the word “tide” has nothing to do with the currents in the sea, beach lovers didn’t care. They adopted it anyway.


“Going Back to Cali”
LL Cool J
#31 pop, March 1988 (Def Jam)

The ladies definitely showed their loved for James Smith after pulling off a cool visual rap about California cruising. The chorus finds LL Cool J breathing heavily, “I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali,” and capping things off with a snarky about-face: “I don’t think so.” The horn solo alongside the record scratchin’ and sexy beats was another genius tool of pushing rap deeper in the ears of the pop market.


“California Girls”
Beach Boys
#3 pop, August 1965 (Capitol)

Before Katy Perry whipped out her L.A. gurl anthem, the kings of surf pulled out their worship anthem in July 1965. The Wilson brothers never refrained from their love for sunshine pop, which is conveyed sweetly on this song’s warm harmonies and bubbly lyrics. The song soared to number three pop that summer. 20 years later after David Lee Roth left Van Halen to go solo in ‘85, he recorded a cover of the song featuring Brian Wilson and Christopher Cross on background vocals, also sending the song to number three pop.


“Walking on Sunshine”
Katrina & the Waves
#9 pop, April 1985 (Capitol)

“Walking on Sunshine” was originally recorded in ’83, but the group got a major deal and another chance to record the sunshine pop song. With a speedier tempo and a zestier horn arrangement, the song ended up being a major Top Ten smash hit.
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About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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